tv Mosaic World News LINKTV November 28, 2012 7:30pm-8:00pm PST
and so they want to make sure that this christian cult, there's distancing. so, i'm not really sure but i think that's some of the - seeing very complex set of - >> kind of a little bit of this and a little bit of that - >> yes, janet. >> and wouldn't history ultimately depend on who's writing it? >> as always, it's an interpretive thing. >> a social context, who's writing that history. >> it's always the case that you have to remember. and searching through this i do not know what the exact answer will ever be but we do see that. i always thinking of it as an umbilical cord eventually, for lot's of complex sociological, theological reasons the umbilical cord connects this new little baby christianity that's connected up to the mother judaism is cut and then christianity is free to grow in unusual ways. >> isn't time a factor in so many religions that heavens gate they seize on the comet back then. and with the millennium coming up, people are screwing a round assessing their faith, -
is this the end? and the fundamentalist are seizing on el ninos destruction of lands - fire and so, with the millennium i think people want to identify themselves with some faith, i'm here the millennium is coming, where is my status? >> and you're quite right and we are seeing all kinds of religious activity around this time and in this society it's spinning off cults and sects, it really actually is. i don't know how long lived they will be but you have a christian groups who are seeing in those terms. but there is a whole other millennial vision that actually can go back to roots and the aquarian age of the hippies in the 60s which sees the new world, the new age, the new order the new light coming down, so it's a fascinating thing. but time, historical events certainly spawn, it's like putting a catalyst into our soupy ecological mix, it creates more stuff bubbling
up and coming out. yes, annette? >> we have an example here but - >> oh good lets go to the roll in. >> a few years back, i don't even remember, a man who was a geologist predicted an earthquake in the mid west region and it was like phenomenal what happened. everybody got earthquake insurance, where you would never have such a thing in this area. and it just speaks for the power of one person who was an expert and of course the day came and the day went and there was no earthquake - millennium. >> i remember it well, in fact i got - it reminds me of an anecdote here. i was doing a tele-class live at this point, one of the dumbest things i ever did that would be like this only it went live out on the local tv stations in marcum, it's called women and religion. and on the day the earthquake was supposed to happen, i will never forget it, it was december 3, 1990. i came on the set with a hard
hat and a shovel and said we are going to dig our way out. but you're right it did happen. janet? >> excuse me, but i think somewhere around st. louis was creamed with a major earthquake in the early 1800, yes it can happen in the u.s. >> you are right. what's the name of that fault? >> the new madrid fault, it runs through southern illinois and into missouri. and - there is the possibility >> of course there is a possibility. there is also a possibility that when the millennium comes we are all going to blow up. >> there are more possibilities that there is going to be an earthquake on the new madrid fault, due to geological fact, that's my point. >> this will show you how it can happen. i live in a slab house, concrete one floor. i was in the family room ironing and i was hanging up a shirt and the iron started going like this and i said whatever you kids are doing up there cut it out. i didn't realize - it's a first time i experienced a tremor, and it was right in park forest. so it did happen and it's happened since. >> well speaking of faults i'm at an incredible fault here for not getting to the roll-in
on sects and cults. so, but you're right, you're exactly right about the power of media and the history of ideas. i'll leave you out lauren, because we are going to get you in. but let me - because we are talking about sects and cults we're back to our major expert gordon melton who of course with his work on diversity of religion has come very close, - is always working on developing these terms. just a short interview, but listen to gordon melton if we could, speak about from his perspective what sects and cults are. >> well we started out looking at the kind of mainstream large religious denominations. and, traditionally it's been sects that we describe those smaller groups that were breakaways of the larger groups and that had a little bit more strict moral standard, a little bit stricter adherence to belief systems. we call them sectarian groups. and then there were groups that were just off
on another ball field, playing a different religious game. those were the groups originally called cults. they were just very, very different from the mainstream religion. however in the kind of diverse atmosphere that we are in today, the mainstream has been destroyed. there really is no mainstream left, and even among the larger religious groups, let's say those groups that have a million or more members. the whole spectrum is now here. it's not just a matter of there being christian groups and little bitty other groups. it's a matter of there being large numbers of buddhists, large numbers of hindus, large numbers of muslims, large numbers of jews and so we have a much different scenario. and simplifying things as church, sect, cult doesn't work anymore. the term cult in particular has been transformed into a pejorative term, just for - it really means a group
we don't like. and there are all kinds of different reasons why we might not like it but in using it in this kind of pejorative way it truly lost all of its value for religious study as a descriptive term. and in like measure sect, has somewhat lost it's value. and now it's much more important that we find categories and terms in this large diverse pool that we have to talk about different groups. so, and to understand what kind of questions we are trying to ask of it. we provided a framework in which we can map the landscape and now it's for sociologists, psychologists other people to come in and say well within this landscape we find these various kinds of interesting forms of religious life. that's still in the process of happening. >> in conjunction with the institute for world spirituality you've moved your study to an international scale, where is the study headed?
>> well about 8 years ago, i was invited to sit on the board of an organization in europe that was doing some of the same study of particularity the smaller religious groups in europe. and in my travels overseas, and involvement with this group called cesnur, center for study of new religions in turin, italy. i became aware that europe was somewhat like we were 20 years ago. there were no good reference book and no good understanding of the religious landscape that had immerged with all the pluralism that hit europe. at the same time we begun to realize that many of the same groups we were dealing with here were also in europe so that there was a great deal of carry-over. that led to the idea of producing some reference books on europe similar to what we had here. but then very quickly, particularly in the last couple of years with the funding from the institute of world
spirituality here in chicago, that we could do the whole world, and we should do the whole world. it's a massive project we expect it to take in its preliminary form the next five years. and that probably it will be something we will be working on for the rest - certainly for the rest of my life. mapping the religious territory and defining the groups and actually finding a way of contacting each and every group in each and every country. part of the purpose behind this is to facilitate communication between religious leaders. that if you don't know they are there you can't contact them. and you don't want to wait until some crisis emerges and you need to contact them and have the first contact be that they're on the other side of the issue from you. we are hoping that in laying out the landscape we can provide a framework in which religious leaders around the world can facilitate their communication
and work together towards the very things that we as human beings all want for ourselves. >> as you can see as he said in the previous class about the moral imperative in understanding religious diversity, here is where it really plays out on a global sphere. in order to get communication going we have to have ways of approaching religions that seem very different and a terminology to help us go through that so that we are all speaking the same language that cult does not simply mean a religion that nobody likes. i thought the interview was very interesting and i can tell you the whole sect, cult, church debate about what you call different religious organization has gone on furiously for over 100 years in sociology of religion. i know that because i had to memorize most of it for my phd exams. and here we are, gordon apparently at this point is beginning to want to even move away from those kinds of terminologies-- i am not sure
then where you go. i mean there is a - to me there is a neutral way of describing, using the term cult that people are going to continue to use a word, then let's try to get clear on what the meaning is. yes, janet? >> but can you take it - can you take all that baggage off of it like could you take it off a witch? can you take all that stuff that's associated with it off of that word cult? i think that's what he's trying to say. >> that's a wonderful connection to our discussion i believe when cynthia jones was here, people say, "well, why a witch?" why would you want to use that term. you may be quite right. if you don't - if we - do we have to just jettison terms like cult because there is no way that you can get out of it being pejorative. i, in my thinking i mean i have come around to a place where understanding cult as innovative in my own mind it becomes more of a positive kind of word but i fully realize, if we took a poll and said who wants to belong
to a church and who wants to belong to a cult? people are going to come up and have a negative feeling about it. i just don't know if gordon who is certainly a world expert is beginning to move away from this particular typology. i wasn't quick enough to zoom in there with the question which i will ask him at some other point stick in the study guide i guess. but okay gordon and what is the next typology i mean when you are talking about different groups in a dynamic way. now one thing i am thinking about is our ecological model. that you - first you need to understand the ecology of the given setting in which a group lives, then you move in and then you can assess what's the standing of this group in relationship to all the other institutions in that society. the context, that's why i keep coming back and seeing what's going on in the churches that we saw on a previous class willow creek and tabor as they understand the context, therefore they are successful. terms like cult and sect don't really apply there.
and yet we well know especially as we are moving into a new millennium that there are extremes of behavior characteristics of certain kinds of organizations and what do you call them? yes, susan? >> it feels like the mission that he's curved out for himself will go on forever because i don't know that you will ever have the definitive list of all the religions and all the cults since it's dynamic. but i wonder too, where he and his group fit into the context of something like the parliament of the worlds religions and or the theosophical society up in wheaton. different faiths and different cults, all groups. >> very well linked with that. as a matter of fact as always you are sort of seeing into the future, clairvoyance here. because in one - i think it might even be our final class in the same interview setting, we interviewed a professor robert moore who is the director of this world center of spirituality and he speaks eloquently
about the connection of the centennial world parliament of religion and what was it in 1994/93 - >> it was right in chicago >> yes right in chicago. so he speaks eloquently of it and of course with the theosophical society very much the same way. let me show you one more roll-in and then we can just end up the class on general discussion. people always bring up the bahai, the bahai group and we have in our region a beautiful bahai temple. i bring up the bahai because, building off of what gordon melton says we can develop typologies like cult and sect and church denomination but from the point of view of the believer how do they understand themselves? the bahai faith of course, developed in the 19th century in iran, and they would have a great deal of problem of thinking themselves as a sect of islam or a culted break-off. they think of themselves as a new revelation, a new religious movement. and they're - they are a religious group
that very much like gordon melton has intimated, speak about unity and interconnection between various faiths. so let me do the roll in here and just see what you have to think about it in terms of some of our typologies. so the bahai faith. >> the bahai faith began in 1844 in what is now iran; it was then persia when a young man who took the name of the bab declared that he was the one who had been sent to prepare the way for the promised one of all ages. the promised one that all people and all religions had been waiting for. he said that, that would come about by 1863 and that he was, primarily though he started his own religion called the bábi faith, his primary mission was to prepare the way for, as he said "he whom god shall make manifest." in 1863 after the bab has been executed by firing squad in 1850,
bahá'u'llah whose original name was mirza hoseyn 'ali, declared that he was the one promised by the bab. he did this in the city of baghdad, after he had been sent out of tehran, which was his home and banished to baghdad. after he declared that he was the one the bab had promised and all the religions of the past had promised, he was banished again to what was constantinople, now istanbul. he was banished still further to other places in a further attempt by the government and the clergy to eliminate the followers of bahá'u'llah. since his faith was growing very rapidly there was considerable concern that it was recruiting too many people and was growing too rapidly and gaining too much power. and their desire was to stamp it out. in that part of the middle east,
the bahai faith was viewed as a heresy, because it came after islam. it is unfortunately often said that the bahai faith is a sect of islam. that could only be said if christianity were to be called a sect of judaism. since the bahai faith came from islam in much the same way that christianity came from judaism. so that's the derivation of the bahai faith. but the faith then spread then rapidly throughout the world. bahá'u'llah was eventually exiled to the prison city of acre in palestine, which is now the city of acre in israel. after many years in prison he was allowed to live in various houses outside the prison walls but always confined to that area. the bahai world center is now located across the bay
in haifa, israel. and the resting place of bahá'u'llah outside of the city of acre in an area called bahji is where the shrine of bahá'u'llah is located. so both the cities of acre and haifa are sacred ground to the bahais. there are many misconceptions about the bahai faith; one of them is that the bahai faith is a syncretism or a mishmash of previous religions. or merely a conglomeration of 20th century and late 19th century ideas and philosophies attached to religion. this is far from the case. the bahai faith has it's own independent prophet, it's own independent scripture so it is quite obviously an independent religion. and it was deemed as such by a muslim court in the 1940s as not a sect or an offshoot of islam but as an independent religion.
the other misconceptions about the bahai faith vary from place to place throughout the world. in the united states, it is - we commonly hear that the bahai faith is a philosophy that has attracted many white middle class intellectuals or liberals. when in fact the bahai community in the united states is extremely diverse, roughly approximates the diversity of the united states in general. the balance between people is such that if you go to the state with the largest bahai population, which is south carolina you will find that the majority of bahai's in that state are neither white nor middle class, nor well educated. that maybe true of bahai's; i am white and it could be said i am middle class.
but i couldn't be said to be the typical bahai either in this country or anywhere in the world. the bahai faith is a world wide religion and in fact, according to the encyclopedia britannica year book of 1988, it's the second most widely spread religion in the world after christianity. it is established in more countries and territories of the world and has a significant following in those areas than any religion other than christianity. if you go to the country with the largest bahai population that is india with over 1.5 million bahai's at this date. so there is quite a diversity there. all bahai houses of worship have nine sides; the house of worship here in wilmette is the oldest existing bahai house of worship. it has nine sides for some very simple reasons; they are not complicated at all or convoluted.
the number nine is the largest number before numbers repeat therefore it is a symbol of culmination or unity. also in arabic and in persian words have numerical equivalents. the word baha has the numerical equivalent of nine in persian. so therefore the number nine is symbolic of unity, of culmination and of the glory of god. that's why bahai houses of worship have nine sides. the only requirement other than nine sides for a bahai house of worship is that it have a dome. >> see i wanted to bring that particular explanation in at this point to show you what happens when the social sciences and the humanities collide, you get total confusion here. because we had gordon melton here talking about what do we do with this sect/cult typology due to susanna's good question
about christianity we tried to use that typology to describe the development of christianity and how it could have gone through all of our various stages. but here we have a believer and we always go to believers who has trouble would have trouble with any of that. wants to make a whole new category do i hear that a religion can simply be a brand new revelation with absolutely no connection whatsoever culturally to anything that came before it. and what could be the response to that? that's the entitlement of the person who is the believer but - let me get your comments. >> he did make reference a bit to the islam thing. he explained it very well. i had no idea what the bahai was. i had them confused with - well somebody said well whatever it is it's a pretty building go see it. that's all i've ever heard about it until today really. >> yes, sure. >> you were talking, virginia. >> virginia yes.. it's virginia or barbara - you. >> you! that always works.
getting back to your idea of ecology. and it reminds me of the dandelions came here as a garden plant. but it did so well that pretty soon it became a weed and it's one of the biggest victims of all time where there is a suburban household is to get rid of the dandelions. anything that flourishes that's new is going to be attacked by all those that have been established simply so they can survive. >> exactly. i think that's a wonderful - it's not wonderful it's pretty grotesque actually but it's accurate - >> it's normal, it's what happens. >> yes that's part of what i am saying, is that, when we are looking at this we have gone through sect and cult formation and i am using that term we are talking about religious ecology. and i want to go back to just, one key point here, which is folks it's not that it's right or wrong, it is. it's normal. it happens. aaron yes? >> yes, we'll just use sect and cult for a while,
and going back before christianity what would judaism be, would that be a sect or a cult? >> it's a - there you go, i mean however you want to take judaism as it's birth it seems to have been a group with a self identity as the hebrews didn't seem to jell into a religion of the people of judah until they were in exile in the 6th century. and then we begin to get it. but what goes into that, and then you really want to get yourself punched out or worse, start talking about islam's relationship to judaism and christianity. i thought this gentleman made some good points there. it's a tense thing, but how much do you borrow and where is that connection cut off. i'm sorry looking at here, yes, janet? >> i just want to get back to the dandelions, the reason that people what to get rid of all the new species is because they are taking resources from the original species who were there. >> and he just said that, with the people - >> they are taking numbers, they are taking energy, and they are taking finances.
>> and we ask why? well, one of the whys takes us back to this whole start of this semester, not that we are wrapping up here folks, but you get the idea of people heard a teaching, a set of answers to profound life questions that was experientially more authentic and so they moved sometimes at great peril. because as this gentleman pointed out, 19th century iran they claimed that there was a new revelation was not a real easy thing to do, not good for their health, but nevertheless people took that step as was the case of course with early christians. yes, virginia. >> i have a number of friends who are jewish and they feel that judaism as such was strong because the people stuck together for preservation, they were being so persecuted everywhere they went. here, society is so permissive that the jewish children do not have that strong feeling
for being jews that has been the history in the past of their parents who immigrated or their grandparents who immigrated. it was pressure from the outside that made them strong in their own faith so they could survive. >> and we see that that there are american families, people born in america who are jewish, who have made the choice to move to israel for that very reason to maintain that faith. and of course one of the real tragedies within the more liberal or the reformed jewish families is the tendency for the jewish son or daughter to marry someone outside of the faith. and that's - it's very tragic and it's one reason why people have moved to a more enclosed setting. so you know here we are back to that dynamics of the social settings. it's much easier to maintain or deal with those dilemmas of institutionalization if there is less diversity. in fact, they say if the pond is kind of static you just have a few players, it's easier to maintain the structures.
but that takes us back to the theme of the previous class, which is hey in the united states if we are looking at this social environment, if anything those factors are going to contribute to more and more diversity. so it's a real, real difficult question, how we relate to new religious movements? how, labeling is not the term i am really looking for but how we understand them in relationship to other people rather, maybe we are talking about a continuum. maybe we don't say sect and cult but we have sort of a continuum of tension, as janet pointed, out with the dominant species that is concerned about the - about resources. and that's a good point. yes, susanna? >> but when you go up to that temple and i haven't been there for probably two or three years now so i am a little fuzzy. but what i remember is the beauty of course of the grounds and the building. but then the videos that you see do contribute to, a bit i thought to his, misconception that it is a joining of all faiths. because in the building, they give space to other great faiths,
they give histories of other great faiths. and i came away thinking that possibly it was the bahai was something you could belong to along with your own - >> well, and i think you are quite right, he wants to make sure that there is a certain uniqueness to it. i think that's what he was stressing. but believe it or not once again we have come to the end of the class this -- time just flies by. we have our very last class next week and we will have a chance to really bounce around some of the ideas. but one of the key things i want to work on is to develop some neutral criteria for talking about religions that are conventional, in a given culture, and religions that might occupy kind of a middle ground between conventionality and non-conventionality and then religions that seem non-conventional. and again i think as we do that we'll come back to our ecological ideas that it is the cultural environment itself or the ecological niche that